All Articles
All Articles

Sleep No More

Punchdrunk Theater Company's designer talks to us about creating an immersive and interactive set

by Cool Hunting Video
on 09 July 2011

An intensely detailed set, we took a minute to find out more about the challenges and excitement of Punchdrunk Theatre Company's Sleep No More's decor from the Associate Designer Livi Vaughan. Check out our video for an in-depth look at what it takes to create such an enigmatic ambiance and read on to learn more about the immersive theater's experience.

Wandering, disoriented and alone, no two people will ever experience Sleep No More in the same fashion. This choose-your-own-adventure sets audiences in a dark and stormy, detail-obsessed mash-up of film noir and Shakespeare’s Macbeth. This is not a play you take a seat for. In fact, you might just find yourself running through a forest chasing after a blood-soaked witch. Defying category, this immersive experience blends ambiance, dance, and elements of a carnival fun house for three hours of interactive theater.

Sleep No More takes place in The McKittrick Hotel—three Chelsea warehouses, gutted and linked together in a labyrinthine manner. From its exterior, McKittrick wouldn't warrant a second glance. Once inside, the performance begins immediately as guests meander through a dark maze, finding their way into a gaudy cabaret, complete with a full bar and jazz band.


Masked and regrouped, everyone's experience diverges from here. A bellhop lays out the rules and from then on, nothing can be taken at surface value. The McKittrick Hotel dictates your course, much the same way the Overlook Hotel lead to the unraveling of Jack Torrance in The Shining. Dull, throbbing mood music fills every room and floor, and each turn casts a unique sense of awe or mystery. Walls yield. One moment guests are in a grand ballroom, the next at the remains of a castle foundation. You can indulge in a candy shop, or admire the taxidermy. Everything can be touched. All the while, a loose adaptation of Macbeth, circa the 1930s, breezes around you.


Unexpectedly, guests catch sight of a sole unmasked figure. It is an entry point, with the option to follow. Taking place, simultaneously throughout, the characters of Macbeth interact. You can follow one character through the entirety of the production, or stray and seek a point of reentry. The dialogue is minimal, but if chance or preparation allow, you can glimpse Lady Macbeth and her iconic, "out, out damn spot!"

sleep-nomore3.jpg sleep-nomore4.jpg

Physical, dance-driven performances illuminate character and plot points. Murder, betrayal and sex are all choreographed elements. Without much warning the performers disperse, leaving the guest to pick a direction and scramble among throngs of onlookers.

Playing off one another, the McKittrick and the actors vie for guest attention. Macbeth has been adapted over and over, but this site-specific production embodies a striking breed of theater where the guests themselves are an active component. All attendees, losing identity behind their masks, are ghosts populating the magical realism. With balletic grace, performances erupt and cease. Plot points may fall to the wayside, but the text is so familiar that it bears no influence. The space shifts and performs, leaving no moment unfilled. Therein lies Sleep No More's greatest ally—unbridled, consistent stimulation uniquely yours.

The CH25 is a showcase of creators and innovators from a broad range of disciplines who are currently working to drive the world forward.

Joshua Harker

Pushing the boundaries of sculpture with intricate 3D printing

Read More
My intent was to explore and depict the architecture of the imagination, to interpret and share forms evident in the mind’s eye

Corinne Joachim Sanon

The chocolatier bringing social change to Haiti and bean-to-bar chocolate to the world

Read More
Seeing the poverty surrounding me and the lack of jobs and opportunity bothered me

Kathleen Supové

The NYC performance artist who’s radically reinventing the piano recital

Read More
I like pieces that are virtuosic, that show off the piano and what it can do, and are awe-inspiring

Dan Barasch + James Ramsey

A quest to make the future brighter—underground

Read More
We both share a passion for groundbreaking technology and a shared love of New York

Meredith Perry

How searching the Internet helped a 22-year-old invent wireless electricity

Read More
It’s not about where the information is, it’s about how you use the tools

Kegan Schouwenburg

Revolutionizing orthotics through 3D-printed insoles

Read More
What orthotics do is they effectively change the geometry of what your alignment is like

Douglas Riboud + Justin Guilbert

How a mission to create great coconut water led to a whole new way of doing business

Read More
We’ve made a conscious decision to be as transparent and honest as we can, and let people decide for themselves

Tarren Wolfe

The next-generation appliance making kitchens greener—literally

Read More
Our goal is to provide food for everyone in the world, and the best place to start is in our very own community

Lulu Mickelson

A civic leader bringing change to NYC through design

Read More
Human-centered design is one of the many tools that we can use to better engage the public

Matt Kenyon

Fusing art and technology to disrupt concepts of corporate America

Read More
I want the work to live in the world and circulate, so it can generate more dialogue

Melissa Kushner

Addressing the needs of orphans and vulnerable children in Malawi through microenterprise

Read More
Poverty is complicated, there is an increasing temptation and pressure in the development space to oversimplify things

Sarah Kunst

The entrepreneur single-handedly changing the landscape for women in tech

Read More
People who live on a planet that is half women but can never seem to find any when they need one, I have solved your problem

Leopoldine Huyghues Despointes

The young filmmaker and non-profit founder who just wants people to follow their dreams

Read More
I feel confident and ready to accomplish so much more, the movement is on

Sabine Seymour

A future where smart clothes are as ubiquitous as zippers

Read More
In the future you will not buy a piece of 'functional' clothing without SoftSpot

Marcus Weller

Using technology to turn motorcycle helmet design on its head

Read More
I was taken aback both by the number of people that doubted it, and by the equally large number of people that got behind it

Alex Kalman

The tiny museum in Manhattan that’s redefining museums

Read More
The mission is to put this small simple and powerful tool into the hands of as many people as possible

Cynthia Breazeal

How an emotional, empathetic robot named Jibo stands to revolutionize communication

Read More
The thing that's so provocative about social robots is that it's fundamentally a community technology

Jonathan Sparks

Reinventing electronic music by inventing multi-disciplinary instruments

Read More
Recorded music is becoming so cheap, so the value of music is now in live performance

Pauline van Dongen

The Dutch designer blazing the wearable technology path

Read More
I’m fascinated by concepts of change, movement, energy and perception; since they are closely related to the way we experience the world

George Arriola and Monohm

An heirloom electronic for the post-smartphone era

Read More
We agonized during the design process as all hyper-obsessed craftspeople should

LaToya Ruby Frazier

Documenting the slow, troubling change in Braddock, Pennsylvania

Read More
I am not a journalist, I am a conceptual documentary artist using my visual expression for building narratives that are unseen and unheard

Tal Danino

The bioengineer who’s programming DNA to fight cancer

Read More
[Manipulating genes] is very new, people are just learning how to program these organisms

Vanessa Newman

Redesigning pregnancy for the post-gender generation with Butchbaby & Co.

Read More
I want my customers to feel comfortable and unchanged, in that becoming pregnant didn't take away from or compromise their identity

Eelke Plasmeijer

The locally driven restaurant that’s upending Balinese food culture

Read More
We really try to keep things simple and let the produce do the talking

Roxie Darling

From un-shampoo to transgender identity, the NYC colorist boldly defining the next chapter of hair

Read More
Hair color is as much a science as it is a craft
Loading More...